In an effort to calm Finance Minister Yair Lapid, who recently ranted about Israelis leaving their homeland for Berlin, the German ambassador to Israel stressed in a speech at his official residence last week that most Israelis return home eventually.
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Ambassador Andreas Michaelis was responding to criticism that Lapid had for Israelis living in Berlin, whom he had accused of throwing Israel “into the garbage."
"In response to Yair Lapid’s comments on Israelis moving to Berlin, let me emphasize: Most Israelis do not stay in the German capital. Rather, they make the most of the city and, after a couple of months or years, return to Israel," the ambassador said. "They are taking the inspiration and creative impulse of Berlin back home. I would rather look at this as a welcome contribution to our partnership and life in Israel."
Lapid had posted on his Facebook page last week: "I have little patience for people who are willing to throw into the garbage the only country the Jews have, because it's more comfortable in Berlin."
The German ambassador estimated that some 17,000 Israelis live in Berlin, and that thousands more visit annually. "Whenever I fly to Berlin, I am surrounded by Israeli families and students on the plane," he said. "On the Berlin underground, I hear Israelis discussing their evening plans in Hebrew. My children, who spent several years of their childhood here in Israel, are now studying at Berlin universities. And they tell me about encounters with Israelis on an almost daily basis."
He added that 10,000 young people from the two countries participated in exchange programs in the past year.
Michaelis also tried to explain the attraction of Berlin to Israelis. "What is it about Berlin?" he asked. "Many Israelis tell me that they love Berlin’s 'unfinished’ and ‘raw' edge. It is a city 'still in progress,' a city that stimulates creativity and that breathes openness and diversity. Berlin allows its citizens to actively shape the place they live in. It is indeed a great place to be."
The ambassador added that over the next few weeks, "We will be bringing a taste of Berlin to Tel Aviv - in the form of the Berlin Dayz."